Last year: Kell 19, Chattahoochee 8
All-time series: Kell leads 1-0
Prediction: Kell 21, Chattahoochee 14
Kell and Chattahoochee face off for the second time in as many years to kick off the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome today.
Chattahoochee miscues and Kell’s swarming and opportunistic defense kept the Cougars from scoring in the first half of last year’s game, while the Longhorns’ offense did what it needed to do to build a 16-0 halftime lead.
Chattahoochee’s offense made some adjustments during the intermission that led to a touchdown and 2-point conversion, but a Kell punt return in the fourth quarter set up the Longhorns for a field goal with 4 minutes remaining that proved to be the difference.
Despite the early-morning start, Kell came out ready to play in this game last season. Today will be different as Kell coach Derek Cook isn’t really sure what to expect from his team.
“This has been a strange week of practice,” he said. “We probably had the worst two days of practice in the history of Kell football on Monday and Tuesday. There were just a lot of mental mistakes all over the place. We had lightning Wednesday, so we had to keep starting and stopping practice. Then, on Thursday, we got rain, which pushed our practice into the gym. I don’t know what will happen with our team (today).”
It also doesn’t help the Longhorns that they are likely facing a different Chattahoochee team than the one they saw last year. Many of the personnel may be the same, but the offenses and defenses could be drastically different after the Cougars have a new coach in Michael Owens.
“It’s challenging to prepare for the unknown,” Cook said. “They didn’t scrimmage, so we don’t have anything to go on. We’re going into the game uneducated in some ways because we don’t know how they’ll look on special teams, offense or defense.
“We did do some research and found out that the coach they hired came from Brookwood, so if I had to guess, (Chattahoochee) will run things similar to what Brookwood ran. So, we’ve had to turn the focus on ourselves and what we’re doing. We’ve blocked different scenarios and tried our best to prepare for what we’ll see.”
Cook said he believes a lot of adjustments might have to be made on the fly.
“We’ll need our four coaches up in the box to get stuff that they see down to us as quickly as possible, series by series,” he said. “The guys on the field have to tell us stuff, too, as they come off because we have a bad angle to what’s going on as coaches on the sidelines.”
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Walton vs. Peachtree Ridge, 11:45 a.m.
Last meeting: Walton 26, Peachtree Ridge 14 (Aug. 20, 2011)
All-time series: Walton leads 1-0
Prediction: Walton 28, Peachtree Ridge 21
After several weeks of hitting one another, Walton will finally get the opportunity to block and tackle another team when the Raiders, ranked ninth in the preseason in Class AAAAAA, take on Peachtree Ridge, which is tied for 10th in the Class AAAAAA poll, in the second game of the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome.
The last time these teams met, which also took place in the Dome, was in 2011 with the Raiders collecting a 26-14 season-opening victory, en route to a 14-1 overall record and an appearance in the Class AAAAA state championship game.
“It’s the first game of the season, and we’ll all get an opportunity to work the kinks out,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “The kids are excited to play somebody else. Practices have been good this week as we’ve tried to eliminate unnecessary mistakes and fine-tune the game plan.”
The Georgia Dome has become a familiar place for the Raiders to begin each season.
They’ve been invited to participate in the Corky Kell Classic every year since 2008, and the Raiders have exited the Dome with a 4-1 mark with wins over Brookwood, Norcross and Peachtree Ridge. Walton is 2-1 against Brookwood at the event, with the loss occurring in 2010.
“I think part of the reason we’ve had some success at the Classic is because the players manage to understand the excitement of the moment and they channel that into how they play,” Hidalgo said. “It’s not too big for them. We’ve taken some good teams down there and they’ve played well, but it’s all about the kids understanding the moment and getting it done.”
Walton won its game last year at the Dome, beating Brookwood 35-24. The Raiders return seven defensive starters from that team and Hidalgo expects that unit will step up and guide the team early until the offense can catch up.
“We’re going to lean on our defense at the start,” he said. “We’re young on the offensive line, but the guys that are in there played some last year due to injuries, so they have some experience. Once the unit catches up with the defense, we’ll get that continuity later.”
Until then, Hidalgo is content with getting the season started.
“It’s always good to build up to this,” he said. “It’s been eight months of hardwork, and now we get a chance to kick off and see what we’re made of.”
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Brookwood vs. McEachern, 8:45 p.m.
Last meeting: Brookwood 20, McEachern 10 (Nov. 13, 2009)
All-Time Series: Series tied 3-3
Prediction: McEachern 30, Brookwood 14
McEachern calls its speedsters Ty Clemons, Taj Griffin and T.J. Rahming the “Three Ts.”
The Indians used their speed, and the speed of now — Georgia Tech player Ty Griffin — to their advantage last season.
The difference between last year and this season — Ty Griffin may be gone, but the “Three Ts” have the varsity experience to go with their speed. That experience will be put to use in the season opener tonight against Brookwood, the final game of the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome.
“Offensively, all of them can fly and are experienced,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “Last year, you add Ty Griffin, but they weren’t as experienced. Now, those three are really experienced and fast and we’ll be using their skills. That should be pretty fun.”
McEachern, which finished with an 8-3 record last season, hopes to use that experience to carry it to at least the state quarterfinals this season. Since 2009, when the Indians went undefeated in the regular season before getting upset by Brookwood in the first round, they have never made it past the second round.
Clemons rotated with Ty Griffin at quarterback last season and had 827 yards and nine touchdowns, plus 786 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Running back Taj Griffin added 644 yards on the ground and seven scores. Rahming had 335 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Tonight, they will battle a Brookwood defense that isn’t overly big but could have the speed to slow them down.
The Indians will look to mix it up between the run and the pass with their skill players. They will also look to take advantage of their speed around the edges.
— By Adam Carrington